President Paul Kagame thinks religious establishments should not restrict their operations solely to Godly affairs. On the other hand, the President said it was regrettable that history is awash with cases of ungodly involvement by these otherwise well-meaning institutions in such acts like sowing discord and fuelling fires of antagonism.
For him they would rather focus on doing more by employing the big potential at their disposal to spur socio-economic and cultural development. Or at the least, adhere to the letter to their proclaimed causes of fostering unity, security and fellowship.
He made his views clear to the leaders of the Muslim faith two days ago as he officially opened the 10th General Assembly of the Union of Muslim Councils in Kigali.
In illustration of his position on what more they could do, he posed a question thus: "Is the business of development to be left only to national leaders, governments and business communities. Should faith-based institutions confine themselves strictly to religious matters?"
And then to point out what they should not be doing at all, he wondered how sometimes they stray away from normal course to effectively become "agencies for bigotry and exclusivity within their individual faith transitions, as well as in society at large."
There is no doubt about what was partly on the President’s mind as he spoke: the direct negative role a religious institution had in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. That institution was sucked into the worst case scenario of a fit of violence against a section of innocent Rwandans, instigated and executed by those with the responsibility and means to protect them.
Yet in such scenario this institution should have instead spearheaded any peace-building initiatives to foster movement towards reconciliation. Isn’t peace-building to develop a constituency for peace the ultimate aim of any religious institution?
It was the worst choice that could ever have been made. Succumbing to the temptation of being used to divide and polarize, when the same institution could have been used in peace-building measures to affirm possibilities for coexistence.
Whereas it is acceptable that faith-based institutions may have limited capability to transform societies, it should be abhorrent to all that they can ever engage in any activities which fan conflict.